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2:43pm on Monday, 21st May, 2012:

DIY Classes


I had my timetabling interview today. The formal purpose of this is at gather information regarding what my requirements are for timetabling my modules next academic year, so the Timetable Office can wait until the very week that term starts before deigning to reveal the results of its deliberations.

However, the meeting has a more sinister purpose: it forces academics to think about what they actually will be teaching next academic year. Most academics don't like to do this, and I'm certainly among them. However, it can't be avoided (a consequence of its being an interview and not a form-filling exercise; well, it is a form-filling exercise, but the departmental secretary fills in the forms based on how you answer her questions).

My CE217 module next year is the same as this year's in terms of timetabling requirements: one 1-hour lecture every week plus one 2-hour class every other week. I just need a bigger room as I have twice the number of students that I had last time round. Hopefully, this time they'll give me one with windows.

My CE317 module next year can't be the same as this year, though. In previous years, I had small discussion classes. Last year, though, I was scheduled to get 20 students so couldn't go with a small class: I had to have two larger classes. Unfortunately, so many students switched to CE317 from other modules at the start of term that I wound up with 44 students. This reduced the discussion classes to long periods of my talking, punctuated by occasional dice-rolling so I could identify someone randomly to make give me their opinion (because no matter how much they wanted to say something, they wouldn't say it in front of their friends because then they'd look uncool; even in revision lectures, they would rather fail than ask me a question and look uncool before a group of people they will never see in their lives again after July).

Next year, there are currently 45 students registered for CE317. This will almost certainly rise once their peers experience the full horror of more mathematically-oriented modules. I'm not going to split them into four groups and give the same class four times (it's the kind of thing that leads to timetable cataclysm). Instead, then, I'm going to have one two-hour class every other week and break the students up into smaller groups (5 or 6) so they can discuss whatever I've given them to discuss among themselves.

I only came up with that idea when the departmental secretary asked me flat out whether I wanted one class, two classes or four plus classes.

It's a pity that no classes wasn't an option, but the university has this rather old-fashioned view that links the fact that it pays me to my attendance at a minimum number of teaching events.

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).